Bee-ing Good Partners for Honey Bee Health

Posted June 24th, 2016

Honey bees are essential to agriculture — helping produce approximately one in three bites of the food we eat.  They are also essential to the vitality of the almond community. Without the honey bees that pollinate our trees every spring, there would be no almonds.  And without almond blossoms, the bees would lose their first important natural source of nutritious pollen after a long winter.     

While this year’s almond bloom is long complete, this week is National Pollinator Week and it’s a great time to reflect on honey bee and pollinator health. The Almond Board is a leader in the honey bee health conversation, a responsibility we take very seriously and includes partnerships with the Honey Bee Health CoalitionPollinator Partnership, Project Apis m. and more.

Two years ago, Almond Board of California joined more than 40 organizations and agencies from across food, agriculture, government and conservation to form the Honey Bee Health Coalition. 

Recognizing that declines in honey bee and pollinator health have put agriculture, healthy ecosystems and worldwide food security at risk, the Coalition was formed to promote collaborative solutions to help reverse declines and ensure the long-term health of honey bees and other pollinators.

The Coalition lays out specific priorities and actions that it is taking to reverse these declines and improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators in the Bee Healthy Roadmap

The following achievements over the past year show the strategy in action.

Managed Pollinator Protection Plans Website

The Honey Bee Health Coalition recently hosted a symposium in Washington, D.C., to discuss best practices for developing state and tribal Managed Pollinator Protection Plans. The primary purpose of the Plans is to reduce pesticide exposure to bees through timely communication and coordination among key stakeholders: beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators and landowners.

Following the symposium — attended by more than 130 representatives from federal agencies, states, tribes, and the beekeeping and agricultural community — the Coalition gathered the presentations, supporting tools and takeaways for others to use. All these resources are now available on the Coalition’s website.

Varroa Guide

The decline of honey bee health has been linked to a variety of factors, with no single cause. Key factors include:

  • Varroa mites
  • Other pests and diseases
  • Decreasing blooming plants and impacts to bee nutrition
  • Exposure to pesticides
  • Lack of genetic diversity in breeding

While the Coalition is working to address each of these issues, progress on the Varroa mite includes the development of a beekeeper guide for treating this harmful pest.

Every honey bee colony in the United States and Canada either has Varroa mites today or will have them within several months. The Varroa mite attacks beehives, weakening and shortening the life span of the bees.  It is the equivalent of a person having a tick or leach the size of a dinner plate attached to their body—a gross but realistic analogy.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition’s “Varroa Management Guide” was released in August 2015 and has been regularly updated ever since.  It has been downloaded more than 1,800 times this year. 

The Guide, which contains best practices to detect and control infestations of the destructive parasite, continues to help beekeepers defend against this destructive pest.

The Bee Understanding Project Film

There are many factors that affect the health of honey bees. What people can do differently is one of them. This is the story of a beekeeper, farmer, entomologist, and crop advisor who swapped jobs to learn more about protecting bees.

Their experiences can help people and organizations across the food supply chain see how their decisions affect each other and the health of honey bees. You can watch the trailer or the entire film here.

The completion of the Bee Understanding documentary, Varroa Guide, managed pollinator protection plans website and other Honey Bee Health Coalition achievements showcase how collective action accomplishes more to support honey bee health than any one company or industry can achieve on its own.  To learn more about the Honey Bee Health Coalition, please visit honeybeehealthcoalition.org.